Monday, July 16

sunblock for me

Yesterday I saw two of my closet friends with their significant others, one for brunch and the other for dinner. Somehow, maybe it's my age, maybe it's where I am in life or just where I live geographically, but I don't see these friends very often. One of them is in the process of moving to New York from DC, and the other lives in Queens, which might as well be DC when you live in Brooklyn.

In any case, these friends are completely different, but on both occasions the conversation turned to a recent New York Times article on sunscreen. "Do you use sunscreen?" they asked inquisitively, "Do you put it on daily?"

"Of course I do!" was my reply. I am terribly paranoid of the sun's rays and apply SPF 20 to my face every morning, along with some SPF 40 to my arms and other exposed skin. When this article appeared on July 5, Christopher and I poured over it, trying to find how our sunblock rated in effectiveness.

Both friends agreed that they covered themselves with sunblock, and one offered me a tube at the table in case I wanted to reapply. "Early and often!" she quipped.

At this point in both conversations, their significant others announced that they do not use sunblock, that they in fact do not believe in it because they tan. I thought this was really interesting. I mean, what makes one person exempt from using it? I mean, at this point sunscreen isn't just about sunburn vs. tan, it's about preventing skin cancer and wrinkles. And in your mid-30s, what is more scary than wrinkles?

I have two possible explanations for their reaction:

It might be a macho guy-thing, though Christopher slathers on more sunblock than I do.

The only other thing that these two men (my friend's SOs) have in common is that they are fairly recent arrivals in the U.S. from Eastern Europe. Maybe sunblock (and wrinkles and skin cancer) is an American worry, one of those weird things that has been marketed to us like anything else. (Which I think is true to some extent. There was recently some outrage about a Neutrogena ad claiming that skin cancer is deadly, whereas it's not that deadly.) It's also something that's luxurious to be concerned about: sun damage is long-term, not something that will make me sick next week.

On the other hand, why take a risk, especially when there is a huge hole in the ozone layer that's allowing in all of those UV rays?

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